I was at the bottom of the world.
The Big Slushie.
A place so cold it could freeze your thoughts to your brain like a tongue to a flagpole. A place where a momentary loss of direction meant certain death in the worst manner possible. Ironically, people still found the heat of passion to commit murder. I lost two fingers and a lot of innocence there. My name is Carrie Stetko, U.S. Marshal. And the deep ice was my home.
Then I got transferred. “A job well-done,” they said. What they meant was, “Here’s a bone, doggy, to keep you quiet.”
I took the bone.
Now I’m in Portland, Oregon.
Poo-poo doo-doo stinky wet place, USA.
The rain here. It takes something out of you. It can make you imagine things that aren’t there. Smell things that shouldn’t be smelled. You blink your eyes, and it’s partly cloudy. You tie your shoe, and feel the cold wet sting of a summer drizzle on your neck. And before you know it, you’re in it.
I’m only in town a few days when I get my first lecture from Marshal McEwan. He hates me.
“You’re not used to this climate, Stetko. You don’t know what can happen out there,” said the red-faced man.
“Listen,” I said, but he cut me off.
“The wet, Stetko, for your information, can come on you anywhere, anytime. You get a cold snap from Olympia and Seattle, and suddenly, your new shoes are ruined. Your croissant is damp. Damp like dew on a corpse. You go out there without an umbrella, and you risk serious moistening of the hairdo. You’ll wish you were bald, Stetko. Do you read me, ‘Marshal?'” he said, sneering at my promotion.
“Hey, I don’t like being here any better than you do…”
“Get some galoshes and do your job, Stetko.”
“Do your JOB.”
“It may take this old country doctor a while to announce cause of death, you know…”
I laugh. I’m looking at a corpse with at least fifty bullet holes in it, still needlessly tied to a chair, in the middle of an outdoor courtyard belonging to my friend, forensic pathologist Dr. Guiltyface.
“Yeah, I can see that’ll be a tough one for you, Doc. It’s a good thing you’re the only friend I have in two thousand miles, because otherwise, having your ex-wife’s new husband murdered in your courtyard would look suspicious! Ha ha ha!”
“WHAT? How did you know that I ki…oh, wait. I get it! You’re joking! Ha ha ha! Delightful!” said my friend, who must have spilled ketchup or something on his shirt earlier. I could tell by the stains. I’m observant that way.
“Ha ha ha! Now, let’s get to the list of suspects. There’s that lesbian spy, the one with all the aliases, and the former KGB guy…” I say thoughtfully.
“I don’t like the looks of that Starbuck’s clerk across the street…” added Dr. Guiltyface, helpfully.
“Right, right. Also, what about movie stars? Sometimes they kill people they don’t even know. We can’t rule anything out. And what about the dog, sometimes the dog is the perpetrator no one suspects. They modify the trigger guard so there little paws fit in, and BLAM! No one ever suspects the dog,” I said, lighting a smoke. To Hell with contaminating the crime scene.
The doctor bent over to examine the body, and something fell from his jacket.
“Hey doc,” I said, ” You dropped your smoking gun! You’d better be careful, there. It could go off and kill somebody!”
“Thank you, Carrie. You are indeed wise.” he said, burning off his fingerprints for some reason.
It was then that I heard a ding dong sound. “That’s probably the front door,” I said.
Detective work is what I DO.
It was a former Soviet Spy, by the unlikely name of R. Herring. I figured he did it, because he held his cigarettes funny, so I shot him. Case closed! Hooray for me! Carrie Stetko Rules OK!
Cell phones are spotty here. It can take upwards of two attempts to get through, some days.
“I shot the suspect, McEwan,” I said, wondering. “Eight times, then reloaded, and five more times. Also, kicking.”
“Goddamn it, Stetko…He was one of ours! I sent him by to assist with your investigation, you complete IDIOT!”
“Um….are we talking about the same guy? R. Herring, with a U.S. Marshal badge in his wallet? Spoke with an accent?”
“Is the only way you can find a perpetrator when they finally start shooting at you?”
“Gotta go, McEwan. It’s starting. THE RAIN.”
The Rain. Falling down like Zeus was pissing on us all.
I tried to run. No good. It was everywhere. Cold, wet, like a million tiny beestings, if the little stinger things were made of wet moist water.
I shut off my panic…let my training take over. Think. Think back. It’s raining. What do I do when…
THE UMBRELLA! It’s back at my apartment! It’s water-repelling properties will serve to keep the rain from falling on my head and other extremities!
I ran. I ran in the direction that would take me home. Home to the life-saving umbrella.
Then I got my foot stuck in a storm drain.
There was nothing for it. I could stay here forever, hoping against hope that the rain would end, that help would come in time, that maybe I could unzip my boot and take my foot out. But those were all just dreams. And I didn’t want to miss Dharma and Greg.
Tearfully, I cut my own foot off with my cuticle clippers and a rat-tail comb.
About five minutes later, it stopped raining.